Did you know it's almost the year that Michael J. Fox went "back to the future?" While we don't have hover boards or flying cars, our innovations have changed drastically since 1985, especially when it comes to technology in the home. Now there are many affordable innovations that are simple to use and can add unique benefits and enjoyment to routine activities.
High-fashion, high-function faucets
Kitchen faucets continue to increase in functionality and style - but imagine the convenience of having a faucet that can sense what you're trying to accomplish, and with a simple wave of your hand, immediately responds to your needs. New MotionSense technology from Moen offers you three ways to operate the faucet. In addition to the traditional handle, you can activate the kitchen faucet by using the Wave Sensor - by waving your hand over the faucet to turn on and off - or the Ready Sensor - by placing your hands or an object under the spout.
"With MotionSense, washing dishes, filling a glass of water and preparing meals are simplified," says Andrea Conroy, director of retail marketing, Moen. "Plus, the hands-free technology greatly reduces the need to touch the faucet, reducing the spread of germs."
Available at home improvement retailers, MotionSense is featured on the Haysfield pulldown kitchen faucet (The Home Depot - $399), which offers a soft modern design, and the Delaney pulldown kitchen faucet (Lowe's - $399). Both are featured in a Spot Resist Stainless finish, which does just what it says - resists fingerprints and water spots.
Continue your hand-free experience in the kitchen by adding an Innovia Automatic Paper Towel Dispenser. This unique product provides the exact amount of paper towel that you choose - without a single touch. A simple wave of the hand delivers one towel; or for bigger jobs, simply hold your hand in front of the sensor until you've achieved the desired amount. Unlike others on the market, it retracts unused sheets back into the clean and dry compartment. Replacing towels can be done with any brand or size within seconds. Available at Lowe's ($99), it fits under most cabinetry and is available in a variety of colors for an innovative and attractive addition to any kitchen.
Water-saving washers and dynamic dryers
Previously, a washer and dryer did exactly what their names say - wash and dry. But for homeowners looking for the new era of high-tech cleaning machines, there is a wealth of options. Most washers today are high-efficient, meaning they use 20 to 66 percent less water than traditional agitator washers - an appealing benefit for the environmentally conscious, or for those just hoping to save on their water and electric bills. Plus, most are available with large-capacity tubs to accommodate bigger loads. And, with less water being used and high-speed spin cycles to remove more water, clothes feel dryer when they come out - saving time and energy on the drying cycle.
Today's dryers offer a variety of features, such as steam functions to remove wrinkles and odors, or sensors that detect when there is a lack of moisture and automatically turn off when items are dry. And, once you've found the set that includes the most high-tech features you desire, these once-commodity products are available in a variety of curvy, stylish looks and multiple colors. Consumer Reports is an excellent source to find the best set to meet your budget, style and feature needs.
We've all left the air conditioning blasting on a hot day (when no one is even home); or, left for vacation without altering the thermostat. These worries can be a thing of the past with the new learning thermostat, The Nest. The new product, which WiredMagazine calls the "the iPod of thermostats," offers artificial intelligence that figures out when to turn down the heat and when to turn up the air conditioning, so that you don't waste money and energy. Plus, you can communicate with the Nest from your smartphone, tablet or any computer. Created by the designer for iPod hardware, Tony Fadell, the Nest ($249) will likely pay for itself within a year or two of use, and ultimately save up to 30 percent of your utility bill, according to Nest Labs research.-
While your neighbors may think they're high-tech with Wi-Fi, smartphones and laptops, be the first to embrace these unique, new technologies into your home and also become the envy of the neighborhood. Soon, you can simply and affordably add enjoyment, ease and even energy savings into your lifestyle.
Editor's note: All prices noted in this article are approximate and may vary by region.